April 12, 1861: The American Civil War Begins
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Those profound words belonged to President Abraham Lincoln, and on this day 156 years ago, his words almost became reality. On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began after Confederate shore batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The four years that followed would become the bloodiest period in American history. We may never know how many lost their lives during this time of division, but it is estimated that around 620,000 military deaths occurred during the war. To put that into perspective, more Americans died during the Civil War than both World Wars combined.
The battlefields are all around us. Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and so many others sit in plain sight as we live and carry on where so many fell so long ago. All that we are, and all that we have become could have vanished on the field of battle as brothers with the same American blood pitted themselves against one another. The cost of division was higher than anyone could have imagined, but our story as a country did not end in ruin.
President Lincoln once said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope on earth.” In the aftermath, Lincoln’s dream was realized. It has taken generations of patriots to help preserve this shining city on a hill. As we remember the day that the Civil War started, we must never forget the dangers of division. We are one nation, and nothing can ever change that.